Public politics in Russia
Trends and prospects
Dr. Ekaterina Sivyakova, assistant professor of the Faculty of Journalism of Lomonosov Moscow State University, gave us our first lecture in Moscow. She is working on public politics and mass communication and her presentation was about “Public politics in Russia: trends and prospects”
Press: the mirror of regime?
First Ekaterina Sivyakova presented some impact factors.
- The type of political regime and the media systems organizational structure
- The law practice and its transparency and importance
- The Communication between media owners and journalist – whether it is cooperation or manipulation
- and the role of Social media as a platform and source for ground communication and networking.
Following she gave us some short but informative background information on press in Russia from the 80s-2010s.
Press in the 1980s-2010s
In the 1980s press in Russia was an agent of change. Public trust and therefore the circulation rates of newspapers were quite high. The agenda was critics of communist past and other main topics summarized in the name Glasnost, all connected to a new political system and foresight.
In 1993 Russia adopted a new Constitution and became a “presidential” republic. Media business development and instrumental manipulation came back for two reasons: First, the 1996 presidential elections, where Boris Jelzin ran again. In the 2nd term he had strong competitors but won the 2nd wave because of the support of main media or rather: the support of main media owners. Second, in the end of the 1990s an “information war” started. Several business groups (including media owner) used media as an instrument for their interests.
In 2000 Russia, formerly a nation of readers, became a nation of TV viewers. By this press lost its position as driver of change, but became a “chronicler”. Ekaterina Sivyakova pointed out that this transformation had also a strong impact on the media agenda. It turned to adapt the new medium. This means more infotainment, more emotional and visual and good looking politicians became present in media, instead of rational discussions on the country’s social problems. She called it “political theatre without discussion.” Furthermore, TV was far more state controlled than the press has been.
Press in 2010 was marked by a wave of dismissions of top journalists and editors (e.g. Kommersant, Esquire, Bol’shoy Gorod). State power focused on media which wrote about political problems, leading to a series of media conception changes. Those changes lead to an increase of positive issue rather than negative ones. For Ekaterina real problems are not properly covered nor analyzed in current Russian media (e.g. economical and social crisis, immigration crisis, HIV epidemic).
Media issues in 2010: polarized society
Russian society is ideological polarized. The most famous case is the discussion about LGTB rights. Another one is the “performance” of Pussy Riots which divided society in a pro and a contra group. Both cases are religious and political. Politically the Russian media system is divided into opposition vs. official “stakeholders”. During big events the Russian agenda, or as some might say propaganda, becomes more accurate (e.g. Sochi). In total there is a main difference between the internal (more aggressive) and external agenda and the official and independent media.
Crimea as a turning point – followed by Syrian war
The events around Crimea in 2014 were presented as a possible turning point. Whether people were happy or not about the annexation they could choose between media which support their very own point of view on this topic. Official agenda was the supporting approach and alternative media, in contrary, had a critical approach. In other words: “Which frame do you want your information to consist of depends on how your feelings are about the issue.” Later the Syrian war replaced the Ukrainian agenda. The attention from Russian society went from internal social and political problems to more external and imperial problems.
After this historical and present background information on the press system Sivyakova named some future trends:
- Investigative journalism comes back and reveals a new way: open data investigations
- “Explanatory” texts answer the questions people ask (see https://meduza.io/cards)
- new forms of information (see picture above, which shows in three figures the price of Ruble for 1 $, for 1 € and for 1 barrel – the background picture and music can be chosen but it is said that this shows “everything essential in one page” http://zenrus.ru/)
- Russian politics as the sphere of myths and stereotypes
- Lack of publicity: elections in the US as the most popular and discussed event in Russian politics
- Russian civic agenda represented in independent and international media
- Personalization of Russian politics: the policy of state leader Vladimir Putin
- Russia vs. US and Europe in “Ukrainian question” (sanctions and anti-sanctions)
The lecture by Ekaterina Sivyakova was a good overview of current and past situation and how structures have changed.
Recommended Citation Form:
Julia Traunspurger: Public politics in Russia. In: Michael Meyen (ed.): Mapping Media Freedom. LMU Munich 2016. http://mappingmediafreedom.de/public-politics-in-russia (access date).